Having chemistry on the court is one thing, but having chemistry off it can sometimes be a challenge.
That was never an issue for Valencia’s Stephen Thay and Eduardo Cedeno.
The boys tennis duo not only dominated on the court this season to the tune of an undefeated Foothill League record (15-0) and 19-2 overall mark, but they are also best friends.
“They are best buds on the court and off the court, and I think that made them so good as a doubles team,” said Valencia head coach Jen Azevedo. “They just fed off each other. If one of them missed, the other one is right there with a smile and a high five and pump up.”
“I’m really proud, Eddy and I have been best friends for a really long time. It’s really great for me to be able to play with him,” Thay said after the pair won the Foothill League doubles championship. “We’ve been succeeding during the season which led up to this win. A lot of practice, but it’s a very satisfying win. We got the outcome we wanted.”
The partners were not only a dominant force together, but fun to watch. Whether it was Cedeno’s patented fist pump or Thay’s tight-lipped smile after a big point, they always got the crowd involved with their stellar play.
And while both are formidable singles players, they emitted unrivaled electricity while playing together.
“If we combine two singles players together like me and Stephen, we can make a lot of damage on the doubles side,” Cedeno said during the season.
“It’s very reassuring to know that when you have two singles player at the baseline that we can go toe-to-toe with anyone,” Thay said echoing Cedeno’s sentiment.
One of the major factors that made them unbeatable in league was their ability to play to one another’s strengths.
Thay used his power to deliver lightning-quick serves and used his length to return shots at the net without the ball hitting the ground.
Cedeno used his quickness and footwork to return tough shots and his pinpoint accuracy to hit the ball down the doubles sideline.
“He has big serves, so it’s easy to finish points off his serves. He’s also got a very good volley,” Cedeno said about Thay. “I feel comfortable serving and him just finishing the points at the net, it makes it a lot easier.”
At the Foothill League prelims and finals, the Vikings pair bulldozed through their competition. Leading up to the title match against Alec Robertson and Sam Vila of West Ranch, the duo lost just three total games in six sets. They then defeated the Wildcats team 6-3, 6-4 to capture the crown.
Their success at the Foothill League finals earned them a ticket to the CIF-Southern Section Individual Championships, marking the third trip for Thay, a junior, and the first time for Cedeno, a senior.
“I’ve been dreaming about going to CIF Individuals since my freshman year, doing it my senior year it’s a dream come true,” Cedeno said after they won the Foothill League title. “He’s been my best friend since I can remember, so it’s great playing with your best friend and going to finals together, it’s a dream come true.”
After a first-round bye, Thay and Cedeno swept their second-round opponents before falling in the third round by three points in a tiebreaker set.
Despite not advancing further in the tournament, the fact that they made it to the championships was a testament to the hard work they put in all season.
“I think it was really special for him to get to go out with his best buddy as a senior. Eduardo worked his butt off for four years to very little recognition,” Azevedo said. “I can’t say enough about the character of those guys.”
All-SCV First Team
Brent Lim and Ellis Bosarge, Valencia
The senior pair anchored the No. 2 spot for the Vikings, forming one of the strongest combos in the Foothill League. Lim and Bosarge went 15-7 overall and 11-5 in league on their way to a third-place finish in the Foothill League finals. They bested their teammates in the Spring Smash Tournament, Thay and Cedeno, for first-place honors. They fed off each other’s energy and loved to ignite the crowd with their play.
Jeremy Killian and Jack Burns, Hart
One of the rare teams that featured an upperclassman and an underclassman, Killian, a junior and Burns, a freshman, were one of the most exciting duos to watch this season. Serving as Hart’s No. 1 doubles team for most of the season, it was common for the pair to win the majority of their sets in any given match. With one more year of high school tennis for Killian and three more seasons for Burns, the team could vault to the top of the league next season if they remain together.
Matt Young and Jason Tumbokon, Valencia
While they were slotted in the No. 3 spot for the Vikings, Young and Tumbokon could have served as the No. 1 team due to their exceptional play throughout the season. The juniors made it to the semis of the Foothill League finals, losing to their teammates and eventual champs Thay and Cedeno. They then played another set of teammates, Lim and Bosarge, in the consolation round, losing in a hard-fought match that went to a super tiebreaker. With Cedeno, Lim and Bosarge all graduating, Young and Tumbokon are likely to be featured as the No. 1 doubles team next year for Valencia.
Canyon — Aidan Kutcher and Reese Johnson
Golden Valley — Chris Guerra and Javier Gonzalez
Hart — Spencer Kline and Sam Fossa
Saugus — Connor Loo and Luke Bannerman
Valencia — Aidan Reyes and Aditya Patki
West Ranch — Connor Schloemer and Rohan Ramrattan